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Mar 12, 2012 11:02 AM

Best dinner buffet in Waikiki/Honolulu area?

Hi chowhounders,

Will be on a family trip to Oahu (4 days) and then Big Island (10 days). My parents really love buffet, so was wondering what's the best one in Oahu? I understand that there are fewer and more expensive choices on the Big Island, so I'd like to satisfy their buffet craving before we head over there. :)
The choices I've seen are:

Kai Market
Buffet at the Prince Resort
...any others?

Prices would be helpful, but I think most likely we'll be doing a dinner buffet, something with a great variety of selections, especially seafood, would be good. I have not been to any buffet in Hawaii (save for the occassional breakfast buffet) so I am not sure which one is the best. The ambiance/etc doesn't really matter as much as the food.

thank you!

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  1. There are a bunch, especially if willing to travel outside Waikiki. Here are a few that I am aware of/have tried.

    Orchids at the Halekulani: Not sure if you can get reservations, and it is expensive. But unquestionably the best buffet on Oahu. Only on Sundays, 9:30 - 2:30. Plan to spend some time and eat a breakfast and lunch worth of food.

    The Willows: this is a longtime Honolulu favorite, mainly because of the setting. Sadly the food is not what it once was, but sitting in the open 'hale' with the fishpond, the tropical foliage, the huge trees overhead is still a special experience.

    Todai: Japanese sushi/seafood restaurant, I really wasn't impressed - but some of my friends think its great.

    Kats Sushi: Not a buffet, but all you can eat sushi for $25. Good quality, the place is kind of small you may have to wait a while for seating. They don't serve alcohol.

    Oceanarium: (as you mentioned) I was pleasantly surprised by this. Not earth shattering fantastic, but quite decent at a fairly reasonable price (varies, lunch/dinner, early bird, etc)

    Prince Court: (as you mentioned) One of the better buffets on the island, known more or less as the second best buffet.

    Plumeria Beach House: At the Kahala (formerly the Kahala Hilton) this is a very nice buffet with a reasonable selection and not totally unreasonable prices. Worth looking into.

    Pagoda: Probably the best known 'local' buffet, almost everyone who has lived here more than 10 years has been to some kind of function at the Pagoda. It pretty much sums up a typical buffet experience. Steam table food, not terrible, not great - at least not most of the time. The quality and service tends to fluctuate over the years. The prices for a buffet aren't bad, no doubt a good value for what you get.

    Camelia: Korean buffet. Having lived in Seoul for 3 years, I thought the food here was pretty awful. It is fairly popular, and they do a pretty good tour business (tour van's) with Korean tourists. it wouldn't be on my list, but it deserves mention.

    Pyramids: On Kapahulu, this is egyptialn/middle eastern fare. The buffet is pretty decent, but many mainland cities probably offer better.

    This is Hawaii, not Vegas. Buffets here in general are not going to be the highlight of a trip, but if your parents love them, you can probably do OK with some research. Hope to get your feedback when you get back.

    14 Replies
    1. re: KaimukiMan

      Hey KMan! How did I miss this nearly complete ans clearly authoritative communication. I agree with you about Pyramid. Good value for the money, particularly off the buffet for me b/c I don't eat much. Maybe that's why I wasn't impressed with Orchids. I'm just not a buffet guy any more. But with kids coming to town, I was sorry to search for your Five Star International review in vain.

      1. re: Joebob


        Never been to five star... i'd have to resort to yelp.

        1. re: Joebob

          Now, "buffet" is usually a "four-letter word" with the Hunts, BUT Orchid's Sunday Brunch was excellent. Some might quibble that a brunch, even if done buffet-style, is not really a buffet, but Orchid's has now risen to the "top-o-the-heap," as two others have closed, so that the resorts could open "Absentee Chef Steakhouses," where mains are US $ 65 and up. Guess that they think that there are still flush expense accounts out there - though I am not sure where.

          Now, with but a very few exceptions, we never do buffets, even for breakfast. I have recently paid 2x the fare, to have individual items cooked for me, rather than poke around a steam table with IR lights. Such is life.

          I hope that the OP can get some good recs., but I am not able to even make suggestions, beyond Orchid's Sunday Brunch.



          PS - we need an O`ahu "chowdown" in our future. K'man, BeachChick, Russkar and Manomin, need to be in attendance. [Hope that the CH Team will not kill my post, based on that little line?]

          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Obviously, they didn't. Why should they? Nothing wrong with hounds getting together. Some places, they even have picnics. Maybe we should have one when Hunt is in the house.

            1. re: Joebob

              Hellooooo!!! What am I -Chopped liver? Don't forget to invite me!!! I am there every Christmas-this year from Dec 18-Jan 3 2013-cant wait!

              1. re: UES Mayor

                I can write this because I'm Jewish: Did you hear about the "Conflicted Jew" sandwich? Chopped liver and bacon! Mmmmmm.

            2. re: Bill Hunt

              @ Hunt: Sounds like fun.
              Was going to La Mer for (lunch) today (private room) with my Mon Wine group but they decided to limit us to 6 bts for 10 ppl which won't work so we moved it to Wolfgang's.

              1. re: russkar

                Please report back, as there ARE changes afoot at the Halekulanai. We thought that we'd gotten the "goods," but were probably too far out?



                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  As far as I know the only change is the renovation going on at the Halekulani right now. I just returned from there two days ago.

                  Orchids is in La Mer's space while they redo Orchids room and kitchen.

                  As a result, they are squeezed for space right now.


              2. re: Bill Hunt

                I'm in! :-) I just had a killer lunch at the new Nico's. A fabulous time at the bar at Roy's Waikiki yesterday, Vino on Saturday for the "Fisherman's Wharf" special menu, Prima on Friday, Camille's on Wheels Friday for lunch. Epic week of eating! Still more to go in the next week! A visitor always gets me out of the house and across the hill!

                1. re: manomin

                  Wow, you HAVE been busy!

                  Have not been to the "new and improved" Nico's so hearing good things from you, brightens up my day.



                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Aloha Bill - glad I could brighten your day, what a nice thing to say. Yes, the new Nico's is indeed wonderful. There is a fish market where you can buy fresh fish, poke, breads, produce, snack items even a cooler! The restaurant itself has a beautiful design, seats 160 vs the old 80. When you walk in like before you order at the counter and get a buzzer. There are drinks along that side and water cups. In the center is a beautiful bar with nice seats with a good back. The bar itself looks textured with waves but it is smooth topped. There are these incredible pendant lamps illuminated by a long long thin bulb, the glass is very bubbly in design so they really sparkle. There is a very creative drink menu with prices avg. $9.00 which I think is a bargain. We had the "punch" and a fresh ginger mojito. The restaurant has one side of all open frames so it is as if you are dining outside looking directly at the harbor a really lovely setting. My MIL had what she always does the furikake ahi which was beautifully cooked MR, brown rice and Nalo greens. I had fish and chips but there were also other specials and a tomato bisque. Very relaxing and leisurely a nice change after the hustle and bustle of the little place before. They also serve dinner. In an email yesterday Nico told me they are rolling out a new dinner service 4/2 so I'll go check that out. How great to see success and change for a small business with quality and consistency remaining top priority. You must definitely try it when you are here next! This afternoon I'm going to Hank's, yesterday I was at Heeia Pier Deli. Wasn't going to eat lunch before work but saw a tweet from Russell with a photo of an ahi that was brought in. I jumped in the car to get over there by 11 when they opened for fear of them running out by noon! They made ahi katsu which was killer!

                    1. re: manomin

                      soo glad to hear that Nico's didn't loose it when they moved. have tried to go 3x, but keep getting sidetracked. thanks for such a great report!

                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        I'm going again this afternoon! Want to try different drinks!

          2. Don't know what kind of buffet the OP is looking for, but how about Tsukiji Fish Market in Ala Moana Shopping Center? Just a thought.

            1. Kman did a good job on his review. Been to the Willows a few months ago and wasn't too impressed for the price we paid. Todai in Waikiki has gone down in quality but does offer a wide selection of dishes. Tsukiji in the Ala Moana Center to me was overpriced but OK for their food. I liked their crab legs and made to order steak counter. The Pagoda was probably mediocre for me but still OK for a buffet. The Ala Moana Hotel was pretty good for prime rib buffet but that was a while back and with a discount coupon. I liked it. My best all around buffet hands down would be at the Hale Koa in Waikiki but it's only accessible if one has any military connections. Like Kman said, this is Hawaii not Las Vegas and buffets are not what they are known for. Good luck!

              13 Replies
              1. re: Clinton

                Thank you everyone for the extremely helpful information as always! As I mentioned, this meal is really for my parents and not for me, but since this is a family trip, was trying to appeal to all the eaters at some point in this trip. Five Star International sounds really interesting...will have to check it out as it seems like a neat buffet concept, less items but more quality.

                Also in terms of Prince Hotel's buffets, it seems like there are 2? Prince Court and Hakone...which one is better? Hakone seems more Japanese but is it only sushi? We have a non-raw fish eater in our party so just wanted to make sure there was enough for her to eat, although the rest of us will eat almost anything raw. :)

                I am most definitely going to take them to Nico's new place as well.

                Thanks again!

                1. re: Tifa2276

                  There are 2 buffets at the Prince Hotel, the Prince Court and Hakone. Hakone only has buffet on Friday-Sunday though, not every day like the Prince Court. Hakone is strictly Japanese food. The focus of the buffet is on sushi/sashimi but it isn't the only thing on the menu. There is also tempura, shabu shabu, and oden as well as a few other cooked dishes. Check on the Prince Hotel website for sample menus to get an idea of what is offered at each buffet.

                  1. re: Tifa2276

                    If you do go to FSI, please let us know how you like it. No one here seems to know anything about it. TIA!

                    1. re: Joebob

                      Thank you killersmile, will do.
                      Joebob, will def post a review if we do go. It's not until June though but thought I'd get a headstart on the planning :)
                      Thanks again!

                        1. re: russkar

                          THANKS russkar. Been to any more pop-ups?

                          1. re: Joebob

                            @ Joebob: Kind of. Went to Pig and the Lady last night at the Blaisdell Farmers Market. Really good!! Prima has a Pop up coming up soon but not sure I'm going yet.
                            Probably trying Five Star International buffet next week for lunch and Arancino del Mare for lunch also (karma aina deal $10.82 instead of $18-).

                            1. re: russkar

                              Great! I trust chowhound reviews more than yelp reviews. How did you get the deal on Arancino?

                              1. re: Joebob

                                Someone on Yelp mentioned it. (ID CARD Honolulu) which can be purchased online.

                                1. re: russkar

                                  What is the cost and what do you get for it?

                                    1. re: russkar

                                      looks like a good deal for someone who eats out frequently.

                              2. re: russkar

                                Karma aina deal? hmmmmmm -there's a ring to that!